San Francisco Shamrocks
The San Francisco Shamrocks have had two franchises in the Bay Area. The first being at an amateur level which later gained minor league status and the second coming more than two decades later in the PHL, a short lived minor league. What follows is the Shamrock’s story and their impact on Bay Area hockey.
The San Francisco Shamrocks began in 1944 with the Pacific Coast Hockey League, a minor league. The ten team league had an odd format with the Shamrock’s Central Division featuring just two teams, the Shamrocks and the Oakland Oaks. Both the Northern and Southern Divisions consisted of four teams each, stretching all across the Pacific.
Playing in San Francisco’s Winterland Arena, the Shamrocks played just 20 games that first season, losing 12, winning seven and tying once. Though they won few games, they still featured some exciting players such as Terry McGibbon who led the team with 28 goals and Ken Clarkson who finished with 29 assists. Despite their poor record, coach Laurie Scott still managed to lead the Shamrock to the playoffs. There they defeated their division nemesis Oakland Oaks in the first round before eliminating the San Diego Skyhawks in the Semi Final. Before they could proceed to the league final, the Shamrocks inexplicitly withdrew themselves from further play for the season.
The Shamrocks missed the playoffs the next two years and were coached by Redvers MacKenzie and Al Murray in those years. But not all was lost, right wing Bucky Buchanan scored 50 goals in 1945-1946 and scored 66 the following year. After two lackluster seasons, the Shamrocks rebounded in 1947-1948, winning a franchise best 35 games, losing 29 and tying twice. Coach Les Cunningham led the team to a playoff berth but the Skyhawks defeated them in the first round.
The following season was a disappointing one, with the Shamrocks finishing with a 29-36-5 record and out of the playoffs. Tony Hemmerling became their fifth coach in six years to begin the 1949-1950 season and would lead them to one last attempt at glory. They finally won their division that year but their victory was for naught as they were once again eliminated from the playoffs by San Diego. They folded at the conclusion of the season but their story was not over yet.
The Shamrocks were resurrected in 1977 with the Pacific Hockey League, playing in the Cow Palace. Head coach Wayne Rivers led a team consisting of several players from the World Hockey Association (WHA) such as Bill Evo, Paul Hoganson, Keith Kokkola and Randy Wyrozub. Emboldened with veterans, they won the league championship in their first year, defeating the Phoenix Roadrunners in a three game sweep. The following year was a disaster. From the beginning, they struggled financially and quickly fell behind in rent to the Cow Palace. They only played 23 games of a 42 game season and folded midway through the year having won just four games. The rest of the league soon followed and the PHL was no more. Since then, the Shamrocks have been no more but their memory lives on.